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Tucson Soaring Club: Growing the sport of gliders

The Tucson Soaring Club, formed in November 1967 at Ryan Field with 25 charter members, focuses on promoting the sport and training the next generation of glider pilots. It currently has 110 members, with 25 members who are inactive, said Ron Olson, who handles flight operations.

In 1983, the club moved to Marana Number 5 Auxiliary Field, a facility used during World War II. The members cleared the brush for runways and built the hangars.

The club has 10 aircraft, including three two-place Grob 103s and a two-place Politechnika Warszawska PW-6U; four single-place aircraft (two Schempp-Hirth Standard Cirruses, a Politechnika Warszawska PW-5, and a Schweizer SGS 1-34), and two Piper Pawnee towplanes. “We also have a dozen private owners,” said Olson.

Joining the club requires a $400 initiation fee, the first month’s dues of $65, and $64 for a one-year membership in the Soaring Society of America. Family memberships cost $32.50 for each additional family member. “We also offer a three-flight introductory package for $250, of which $100 can be applied toward membership,” said Olson. Youth and student memberships cost $32.50 a month.

Club aircraft are available to members at no additional cost, and tows cost $1.20 per 100 feet plus a $2 fuel surcharge. “Our youngest guy was an Air Force cadet, and it goes up to guys in their 70s and everything in between,” he said. It currently has around 20 students made up of college students and people in their 40s or 50s who want to learn how to fly, he added.

The club stays active in the Tucson community, doing everything from a yearly aviation camp for Boy Scouts to doing flights for the disabled, said Olson. “We have one glider with a hand control, so we’ve done events with the Wounded Warriors,” he said. “We go to the Cactus Fly-In in Casa Grande, and do a show-and-tell about gliders.”

Olson advises those wanting to start a club to research and see how other clubs have succeeded —and failed. “The Soaring Society of America has all kinds of people to help direct new clubs,” he said. “You also need to encourage young people by taking a ride with a friend or club member. Share the sport.”

Topics: Flying Club, Aviation Industry, Glider

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